Debate has persisted about the advantages and disadvantages of fraternities, which have been part of the U.S. collegiate landscape since the 1700s. For its supporters, the Greek system offers a logical way of building personal ties that last beyond the classroom. Detractors, on the other hand, question whether fraternity leaders care enough to protect members against abusive initiation practices -- and exposure to high-risk behaviors that damage academic performance, such as heavy drinking.
Broader Social Network
Many students join fraternities to broaden their social lives. Fraternities promote the concept of individualism in a cooperative framework, which helps to promote lasting friendships, according to an overview posted by Ohio Northern University. Few other student organizations match the variety of fraternity events like barbecues, Greek Week activities, mixers and spring formal dances, which provide additional chances to meet people from different backgrounds.
Career and Networking Opportunities
The chance to build career skills and connections provides another strong incentive to join fraternities. In particular, business and professional fraternities give students the chance to learn about the corporate world's inner workings from their peers -- as well as successful alumni, "Bloomberg Businessweek" reports. The experience of planning events also helps members learn public speaking and presentation skills that they'll need to succeed in the working world.
Fraternity life offers the chance to participate in various community service projects that allow members to give back time and labor. These efforts don't go unnoticed, as the Kappa Sigma fraternity observed in a June 2011 summary of its latest two-year fundraising cycle. In its press release, Kappa Sigma broke all previous records by raising more than $2.8 million for various local charities and contributing 850,000 man-hours toward volunteer work.
Joining a fraternity is often a costly proposition. Average costs can range from $400 to $500 for membership dues per semester at Boston University, to $5,300 per year at Kansas University, once room and board are included, according to the Campus Explorer website. New members must also budget for numerous related expenses, including Greek lettered clothing, parties and social events, and contributing to their fraternity's favored causes.
Peer Pressure to Drink
Peer pressure is a reality on college campuses nationwide, but it's significantly higher within the Greek system. About 70 percent of fraternity members engage in binge drinking, or consuming five or more drinks at one time, for example, according to the National Institute of Health. Fraternity members also report experiencing negative consequences of high-risk drinking -- including blackouts, hangovers and unplanned sexual activity -- at higher rates than the general student population.
Risk of Hazing
Fraternities are often associated with hazing rituals that involve abuse, harassment or humiliation. About 55 percent of U.S. college students experience some form of hazing, which frequently coincides with excessive drinking, sleep deprivation and risky sexual behavior, advises hazingprevention.org. As of February 2012, hazing had claimed 96 lives, including 90 men and six women. Alcohol also accounts for roughly 82 percent of all hazing deaths.
- Bloomberg Businessweek: Should You Join a Fraternity?
- Campus Explorer: How Much Do Fraternities Cost?
- HazingPrevention.org: Hazing Information
- Ohio Northern University: 7 Advantages to Greek Life
- U.S. National Library of Medicine; National Institute of Health; Heavy Drinking in College Students: Who Is at Risk and What Is Being Done About It?
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
- ABC News: Fraternity Group Seeks to Shape Hazing Reform
- Collegiate Times: Greek Life More Than Meets the Eye
- Southern Methodist University: The Questionable Value of Fraternities
- The Drake University Times Delphic: Networking Key to Professional Fraternities
- U.S. News & World Report: 7 Considerations When Thinking About Greek Life